John Lackey summed up his start today succinctly: “I pitched bad.” While his command of the English language is lacking there, it is still miles ahead of his command of the strike zone today: four innings on 97 pitches (56 for strikes), eight runs allowed, 10 hits, one strikeout, three walks, and a homer.
This is one of the low points of Lackey’s short career in Boston, but there haven’t been many high points to negate this type of showing. He has now made 38 starts in a Red Sox uniform since signing before the 2010 season, and has thrown 247 2/3 innings in that stretch. The result: a 5.09 Run Average, a 6.3 K/9, and a K/BB ratio of two.
The Red Sox paid Lackey $18 million last year to put up production like that, and have another $64.5 million dedicated to him between 2011 and 2014. Things look like they may have been turning around during the second half of 2010, but, as pointed out here and in Baseball Prospectus 2011, the quality of competition was low enough that you would be forgiven for ignoring Lackey’s supposed progress:
Feasting on the punchless Mariners, Indians, and Athletics helped, but Lackey’s command was improved—repeating that second act is the key to a successful 2011 for the Texan.
That command hasn’t been there in 2011–his strikeout rates would be higher if he was putting the ball where he needed to in order to succeed–and now we are seeing velocity issues from him as well. Dan Brooks pointed out on Twitter that Lackey’s velocity once again fell over the course of the game:
This kind of velocity drop doesn’t just happen in someone like Lackey, who has been used to the rigors of a major league workload for years now, without there being some kind of underlying issue. Lackey has a history of elbow and shoulder problems, and even has a clause in his contract saying he will pitch for Boston for the minimum salary in 2015 should his pre-existing elbow condition become a problem at any time during his stint with the Red Sox.
CHIPPER, Baseball Prospectus’s injury forecasting system, projected Lackey as a moderate risk to miss 15-plus days this year, and a moderate risk to miss 30-plus days as well. There is a very real chance that something is amiss with Lackey on the injury side of things.
One almost hopes that something correctable like an injury is the problem, because if not, the Sox may have a more significant issue on their hands–and for the next few years.